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Live Nation production chief under probe; streaming services see growth in 2018

Top News

* Live Nation Entertainment Inc. has hired a third-party firm to investigate allegations of verbally abusive behavior and offensive language against production chief Heather Parry, Variety reports, citing a company spokesman. Parry was placed on a leave of absence six months after 10 employees filed HR complaints against the executive, multiple sources told Variety.

* Sprint Corp. agreed to pay $330 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of New York over unpaid sales taxes. The state had sued Sprint and certain of its subsidiaries in 2012 alleging that for nearly a decade Sprint knowingly failed to collect and remit more than $100 million in state and local sales taxes owed on its flat-rate wireless calling plans sold to New Yorkers, according to a news release.

* Subscription video-on-demand services continued their ascent this year, with top players Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video and Hulu LLC all augmenting their programming spending and boosting their subscriber rolls. Projections by Kagan, a media research unit within S&P Global Market Intelligence, indicate that there should be nearly 168 million aggregate over-the-top video subscriptions in the U.S. by the end of 2018, generating some $13 billion in subscription revenues.

* Christmas came early for T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. executives in the form of key security clearances for the companies' pending merger, but deal opponents say the fight will move to next-level federal and state reviews. Removing one major hurdle to the merger's completion, both the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., an interagency government body that examines transactions where a foreign owner seeks to take control of a U.S. business, and Team Telecom, a smaller interagency group that specifically reviews foreign investments in U.S. communications assets, recently approved the deal.

Technology

* U.S. satellite startup OneWeb LLC has proposed the sale of a 12.5% stake in the company to the Russian government, Reuters reports, citing three sources with knowledge of the matter. The sale of the stake could help address concerns by Russia's Federal Security Service about the company's plan to develop a worldwide internet network using satellites.

Social media

* Facebook Inc. is working on plans to develop its own cryptocurrency that will allow users to transfer money through its WhatsApp messaging app, Bloomberg News reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The cryptocurrency being developed is called a stablecoin, a special type of digital currency that will have its value pegged to the U.S. dollar to minimize volatility, sources said, adding that Facebook will focus first on the remittances market in India.

* As Washington braces for a shutdown and Wall Street wrestles with the shadow of a bear market, the broader markets tumbled during the week ended Dec. 21, with a few tech stocks particularly impacted. Facebook was among the major names on the Nasdaq to see its shares tumble during the week, as broader market troubles coincided with a report from The New York Times that raised fresh privacy concerns around the social media giant.

Multichannel

* Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Comcast Corp. for allegedly overcharging customers in Minnesota for cable television packages, charging for unordered equipment and services, and failing to deliver prepaid Visa cards promised in its promotions. The lawsuit accused the company of creating the fees "on its own initiative and increasing them at its own whims." It also alleges that Comcast/Xfinity charged equipment-rental fees to some customers who understood the cost of the equipment was included in the monthly amount they were quoted.

* Comcast's advertising division launched the next phase of Blockgraph, a blockchain-enabled software that aims to allow TV and media companies to safely activate data at scale. The newly launched peer-to-peer platform allows participants to protect and control their data, while benefiting from the shared insights of the entire user network, according to a news release.

Film

* Warner Bros.' "Aquaman" topped the domestic box office for the Dec. 23 weekend with $67.4 million, followed by Walt Disney Co.'s "Mary Poppins Returns" at No. 2 with $22.2 million and Paramount's "Bumblebee" at No. 3 with $21.0 million, according to comScore Inc. Sony Corp.'s "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" was No. 4 with $16.7 million, while Warner Bros.' "The Mule" took the fifth spot with $9.3 million.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, Hang Seng decreased 0.40% to 25,651.38, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 1.11% to 20,166.19.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 decreased 0.60% to 6,680.60, and the Euronext 100 decreased 1.08% to 899.85.

On the macro front

The Chicago Fed national activity index is due out today.

Featured news

The Daily Dose Europe: M7 to buy Liberty Global's assets; France Télévisions, Molotov in deal talks: M7 Group SA will acquire Liberty Global PLC's assets in eastern Europe, while Molotov SA began deal talks with France Télévisions SA after it ended discussions with Orange SA.

M&A Replay: Liberty Global selling DTH business; Turkish banks take over Türk Telekom: M7 Group is acquiring Liberty Global's direct-to-home satellite TV business in eastern Europe, while a group of Turkish banks took control of Türk Telekomünikasyon Anonim Şirketi after the telco's owner defaulted on a syndicated loan.

The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: China dismisses US hacking charges; SoftBank telecom unit flops on trading debut: Beijing denied U.S. charges that two Chinese nationals stole identities and engaged in conspiracies, while the IPO of SoftBank Group Corp.'s telecom unit ranked among the biggest to record a lower stock value after its first day of public trading.

The Program Guide: TBS sets 'Conan' premiere date; Discovery partners with Ladies European Tour: Discovery Inc. reached an extensive rights deal with the Ladies European Tour, while Comedy series "High Maintenance" will return for its nine-episode third season on HBO (US)'s on Jan. 20, 2019.

The Best Of: Media & Comm, editor's picks: EU's big tech plans; Huawei executive arrest: Stories covering the EU considering legislative proposals impacting the technology, media and telecommunication industries and the effects of the arrest of a Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive are among the editor's top five story picks for the week ended Dec. 21.

The Best Of: Media & Comm, most read: Les Moonves' severance deal; CBS, Nielsen contract: Stories about CBS Corp.'s board denying a $120 million severance package for Les Moonves and CBS contemplating ending its long-time relationship with Nielsen Holdings PLC are included in the most read stories for the week ended Dec. 21.

CBS denies Moonves $120M severance; McClatchy approves retention award for COO: CBS denied Les Moonves $120 million in severance compensation after completing an investigation that determined there were grounds for his termination.

Data Dispatch: SoftBank telecom unit flops on trading debut after IPO: The highly anticipated IPO of SoftBank's telecom unit ranked not only among the biggest of the technology, media and telecommunication sectors but also one of the biggest to record a lower stock value after its first day of public trading.

Featured research

Economics of Networks: Cable Program Investor: Table of contents for Issue No. 253, published December 2018.

Technology: Q3'18 CCAP channel shipments rise while revenue dips year over year: Global shipments of DOCSIS and video quadrature amplitude modulation, or QAM, channels rebounded in the third quarter behind surging demand for cable broadband capacity.

Technology: Blockchain in programmatic advertising: There has been a lot of news in 2018 around the use of blockchain technology in the programmatic advertising market.

Economics of TV & Film: Kagan box office report, week 50: The U.S. weekly box office bounced back in week 50 after two weeks of declines. Total week 50 box office was up 26.1% from $117.8 million in 2017 to $148.6 million in 2018.

The next edition of The U.S. Daily Dose will return Dec. 26.

The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.